Just another day on the 6th anniversary of Sept. 11
By Ray Hanania — It turned out to be just another day. There were a few stories about the terrorist attacks that rocked America six years ago, an endless series of documentaries on the History Channel, which seems to be having some problems with objectivity these days, and a few more in-depth probes into the attacks better presented on A&E. The politicians made a few comments, there was a candle lighting vigil in Washington, and papers published a few features on Muslims looking back at how their lives have changed.
Forgotten in the recollections are the experiences of Arabs – six years later and the news media still can’t seem to distinguish between the very distinguishable “Arab” and “Muslim.” They’re very different. No wonder we can’t win the war in Iraq. It’s not that we don’t know how. We just don’t “know.”
But back on the home front, life goes on.
My son had his elementary school open house. I got to meet his First Grade teacher, and I was impressed with her enthusiasm for all the kids.
And I am always impressed with the diversity that the schools in our community in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago reflect. Irish. Italians. African Americans. Hispanics. Arabs. Jews. Christians. Muslims. Pakistanis. Indians. Poles. And even a Bohemian.
Red and yellow, black and white, they were all smiling and playing together as if the world around them were so simple and not under a cloud of fear.
Things have changed a lot since when I went to First Grade.
Seems there is so much more emphasis on learning. It starts so much earlier. Kindergarten for my son was marked by reading. Mine was marked by trouble when during sleeping recess – we slept on blankets half the morning when I was in school – the teacher found a small toy gun I brought to school.
It wasn’t that it was a gun that got me in trouble, as it certainly would these days, but that it was a toy. “No toys in school,” the teacher scolded.
They don’t call the library the library any more. Blame it on computers. It’s called “The Media Center.”
My kid is already an astronaut.
But they have all of the same instruments of learning. Box or Crayons. Pencils. Sharpener. Ruler. And Glue Sticks. Well, when I was a kid, we didn’t have glue sticks. We have Elmer’s Glue. And it came in a small tub with a handle in the center of the cap and a brush. It was a white paste. And, well, it tasted good. At least to me and my friends back then, all White Southeast Siders when the city and the world were neatly and cleanly divided on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion.
We lived in the Arab-Jewish section. Imagine that, Arabs and Jews actually living together in the 1960s. The Poles lived in the Polish neighborhood. The Italians lived in the Italian neighborhood. The Irish lived in the Irish neighborhood. And the Blacks lived in the Black neighborhood, which wasn’t called Stony Island. It was called “the dividing line.”
Well, we did see one Black person. Heavyweight boxing champ Cassius Clay, later Mohammed Ali, used to pull up in his brand new Lincoln Mark I and single me out as the darkest kid at Jewel and give me a crisp one dollar bill to carry his groceries out to the car.
But then people didn’t mistake me for a Muslim, as they do today, or an Arab. We were either Black or White. And that was that.
My kid doesn’t eat Elmer’s Glue. He sits in front of “the dot com,” what he likes to call the computer and the Internet, looking up images of the Wiggles, the Doodlebops and Dinosaurs. At least we have one thing in common.
In addition to The Media Room, there is the Computer Room, a giant space with the newest and best computers all lined up in several rows where the first and second graders sit and learn how to read even faster and better than I did.
He and his class can bring their lunch, or, they can swipe a First Grade credit card, fattened online from daddy’s checkbook, to pay for their lunch items. Nothing with peanuts because it’s a peanut-free environment.
There are so many more foods that are dangerous today than there were when I was a kid, riding a 20 inch bicycle down the middle of the street, grasping tightly to the back bar of the truck that sprayed insecticide up and down the streets long after the lights went out.
Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden thinks he has stolen away our freedom. But I disagree. All he has done is remind us how free we really are, free to remember the good old days when these days seem so bleak.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist an author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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